Posts Tagged ‘obama’

The latest plot against Obama, and the big question

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

A week out from the election, the surfacing of yet another plot against Obama underscores the central danger that haunts this race. Colin Powell is said to have declined to run in 1996 in large part because of his wife’s fears that a black presidential candidate would be an irresistible target; Obama has the added burden of knowing that the opposition party is inflaming its supporters with rhetoric branding him a traitor/terrorist. But any would-be assassins who get inspired listening to Palin pray to God to somehow save us from the Democrats are amateurs by definition.  Doesn’t mean they couldn’t succeed—but the skinhead fuckwits who comprised this latest plot probably wouldn’t have been able to carry out a successful robbery of a 7-11, let alone getting weapons anywhere near Barack Obama.

The real question at this point is whether there’s a professional plot in the works.  This is a tough one to analyze, because it opens the gates of what pundits are pleased to call Conspiracy Theory, and as such encourages dogmatic (and unprovable) statements like No Way in Hell Could That Shit Happen in the U.S. of A.  (despite it happening everywhere else throughout recorded history).  The correct stance, of course, is one of watchful agnosticism, particularly because the men who rule this country have proven themselves to be capable of pretty much anything—and the problem they face now isn’t that Obama’s black, or that he’s socialist, or not Christian enough; it’s simply that he would disrupt a hold on power which they had every reason to believe would endure indefinitely.  Backed by a never-ending war and a spurious legal framework that guaranteed the total supremacy of executive power, those who occupied the White House could look forward to a permanent GOP majority sustained by the endless invoking of patriotism during elections even as Republican operatives worked behind the scenes to rig them.  Hold a few elections under those terms, and eventually elections become votes in name only.

But Obama threatens to torpedo all those calculations, because it’s tough to rig elections when the other candidate is several points ahead, and is racking up huge numbers in the Electoral College.  It’s certainly not impossible, though it would require that the media indulge in cognitive dissonance on a scale that would make the 2004 exit polls/actual “results” dichotomy look positively tame.  The prediction of race riots if McCain wins is potentially part of the propaganda meme here; in the event of a poll-defying McCain victory, the already-alerted police and military will do their best to convince angry citizen-mobs to do their duty and (as Anne Applebaum so idiotically said back in 2004) “accept the verdict.”  In so doing they would be helped by right-wing brownshirts convinced that it’s really the Democrats who were trying to steal the election all along.

But this kind of scenario is touch and go, and could totally fall apart if Obama gains enough in the polls to get him into realigning election/landslide territory.  A catastrophic event prior to the election is in some ways even crazier, but can’t be ruled out, because it at least has the advantage of justifying a martial law under which the election could be safely managed.  The most likely course of events at this point is probably that nothing happens:  that the disarray we’re seeing right now on the right is genuine, and total, and precludes any extra-constitutional measures beyond an attempt to steal the vote.  Meaning it will all probably come down to whether Democratic turnout overwhelms crookedness at the polls.

Nonetheless, if I were Obama, I’d be keeping a pretty close eye on my Secret Service detail these days, since standing down the bodyguards is a standard part of any serious attempt to eliminate a target.   I’d also make damn sure of my campaign aircraft.  Six years ago yesterday Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (and arch-nemesis of the Bush White House) died in a highly suspicious crash that allowed his Senate seat to pass into the hands of the GOP in the election one week later.  Obama is the only 08 presidential candidate to have experienced an aircraft incident, and one of his rallies was the site of the only reported Secret Service/security breakdown that’s occurred thus far.  These are probably coincidences, but this is a year we really don’t need them.

The finish-line in sight

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

In the end, the debate wasn’t even close. David Gergen said on CNN that McCain looked like he “had an anger management problem”; that was part of a broader policing-the-emotions issue. Hours of world-class debate prep failed to make inroads on McCain’s fundamental body language issue, nor was it able to wipe the frustration from his voice. And meanwhile Obama remained almost preternaturally calm: in its desperation, the right is now starting to use that as a weapon as well, the same way it tried to turn the “celebrity” issue on its head. Isn’t this guy human? Does he ever break a sweat?

Not in debates, apparently. Nor if there’s a camera within line-of-sight. But this race isn’t over yet.  Yesterday’s polls showed that McCain seemed to have arrested the slide in his numbers, if only temporarily; this debate may send them to new lows, but I suspect that what the next few days will actually show is that Obama has peaked too early—and his supporters may have peaked psychologically as well, given the overconfidence that their candidate is now chastening them on.  They would be advised to listen to him, as this race could easily tighten across the last two and a half weeks; keep in mind that the media wants a horserace, and would vastly prefer a “McCain as comeback kid who’s clawing his way back” narrative to one of Obama cruising to a massive, easy victory.

It’s also worth noting that there’s still a lot of time on the clock for an October Surprise, especially one that involves foreign policy. Bin Laden may yet make an appearance, if only on video.  But also, Bush/Cheney have more than a few cards to play as well, and both men are acutely conscious that their unprecedented attempt to expand presidential power beyond the limits of the Constitution will come under intense (and possible legal) scrutiny should Obama win. (I doubt that Obama himself wants to take this step, but an awful lot of shit is going to come out even if the top players burn/destroy all their files.)  So it’s no surprise that the administration has been anxious to catch Bin Laden in the waning days of the election.  And anyone who thinks this is just a matter of Bush’s legacy is #$# kidding themselves.

What’s going on with ACORN, etc.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

We sure are headed for some shit on Election Day. “Chaos at the polls” is how CNN puts it after studying the latest reports on insufficient poll workers, malfunctioning electronic machines, lack of enough paper ballots, etc. And it doesn’t look like we’re going to do anything about it either: we could airlift whole teams of monitors and logistics assistance into a third world election next weekend if we wanted, but closer at home a strange paralysis seems to grip us.

All the stranger since an awful lot of battleground state voters are going to be showing up to the polls only to find that they’ve been stricken from the rosters.  It’s within this context that we need to examine the ACORN controversy, in which thousands of false voter registrations have been submitted to local election boards (many with names like “Bugs Bunny” or “Mickey Mouse”).  Fox News et. al. are working 24.7 to convince their viewers that this is all part of the Democrats’ plan to steal the election:  “is it a coincidence that Obama is ahead in the same battleground states rife with voter fraud allegations?”  This is one of the big GOP talking points right now; keep in mind that the same fuckwits whom you see on TV at Palin’s rallies frothing at the mouth about traitors and death are also being assured that Osama, sorry I meant Obama is hell bent on stealing what isn’t his (not that there’s a racial subtext here or anything).

But when you compare it to an issue like the basic integrity of a Diebold machine, ACORN is actually a pretty minor matter in the scheme of things.  The media said that what they were doing could have been the “first step” toward voter fraud.  So what the hell was the next one?  Bugs fucking Bunny shows up and tries to vote? I’d pay to see that one. No, ACORN’s missteps are either the result of lots of local stoners/slackers trying to make a couple bucks, or they involved at least some GOP sabotage—I can’t rule out the latter, given how quickly/deftly the right-wing media has exploited the issue and constructed a false narrative of evil Democratic voter fraud.

And that brings us to the major issue here.  Because the overall pattern is unmistakable.  A key technique used by Karl Rove and his acolytes is to do something, and then—when the opposition calls you on it—accuse the opposition of doing the same damn thing (look how this has worked across the last few days with the crossing-the-line-rhetoric issue).  And it’s impossible to study the evidence of the last two elections with an open mind (particularly the 2004 one) and not conclude that the inner core of the Rovian strategy centered on contaminating the voting process.  This was, I suspect, the secret heart of the attempt to create a permanent Republican majority (an attempt that may yet succeed), and it’s almost certainly the reason why Bush rather than Kerry is president right now (personally, I think Kerry would have made a crap prez, but that’s not the point—and the fact that I have to even point that out is a problem).

Yet now we’re headed for a real train-wreck, because election-rigging is something that only works when the vote is close, and right now it’s anything but.  Even the most supine of medias would wake up if it were confronted with a double-digit discrepancy between polls and votes.  But fucking with the vote is like campaigning:  once you start it, you can’t turn it off. An Obama landslide may yet overwhelm all the schemes.  But on November 4th, we’ll have a chance to see how deep the rot goes.

McCain stands up (for a moment)

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

John McCain turned on his most vitriolic supporters yesterday, correcting a woman who thought Obama was an Arab terrorist, and telling the crowds they don’t have to be scared in the event of a Democratic victory. He deserves full credit for this, though of course it was his campaign who gave these ignorant fuckwits the idea in the first place, and they’re going to keep giving those ignorant fuckwits the same ideas for the next three weeks (and the four years beyond that too).

Still, one can’t help but wonder how McCain would be doing in the polls if he had never called up the forces of darkness to begin with.  Probably even worse than he is now, but still it’s fun to think about:  what if McCain had run the kind of campaign I suspect he wanted to run?  You think he likes any of this shit?  You think he enjoys pandering to the racist morons who were totally convinced eight years ago that he’d fathered a black child?   You think he relishes saying that Joel Osteen’s book is the best thing he’s ever read?  McCain’s essential tragedy is that the math of the Republican Party as it’s now configured forces its candidates to pander to a voter base that (let’s face it) probably would be a lot happier in a theocracy than a republic.

And that’s why his “stand of honor” yesterday ultimately means little.  Even as the Senator cringes in the face of the venom he’s presiding over, his paid operatives keep on pumping out the Jesusland bullshit, portraying Obama as a man whose first move as president will either be to blow up the White House or paint the whole thing black.  These are the same people who McCain once promised would burn in a “special place in hell” for smearing him so badly back in 2000.  He may end up in one of his own for joining forces with them.  Looking at his anguished face in yesterday’s rally, he may be there already.

Last night’s debate

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The Romans understood that politics is a particularly weird/brutal kind of sport (check out Tom Holland’s brilliant Rubicon for specific analogies vis-a-vis chariot racing), and they wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest by our presidential debates, where a single false move could cost a candidate the election. Neither candidate made such a move last night; indeed, Jim Lehrer’s decision to open things up at the start paradoxically seemed to make both Obama and McCain more careful in navigating their way forward. Which made for a somewhat boring first 15 minutes as the two men gingerly maneuvered around each other, neither wanting to start debating the specifics of a bailout bill that changes with every passing day . . .

But hey.  I just read John Scalzi’s latest post, and he’s got all sorts of advice for those who would comment on the debate, in particular the injunction to STAY AWAY FROM VIOLENT SPORTS ANALOGIES.  (Yawn.)  Though I do think he raises a good point in wondering why the “real people” scored the debate so differently from the pundits.  John thinks that’s because the voters are concerned with “steak not sizzle”; I gotta admit that’s news to me.  Because I didn’t hear a whole lot of substance last night.  What we got was the standard thing we get in every debate:  two candidates eager to allow the American people to continue in their delusion that fiscal questions can be addressed without hard decisions vis-a-vis military spending and entitlements.

No, I think the gap between the pundits (who rated the debate as even) and the independent voter/focus groups (most of whom scored it for Obama) has nothing to do with what was said and everything to do with what was seen.  Obama simply looked more presidential; he looked McCain in the eye, he didn’t cringe when the other guy was talking, and his posture was confident throughout.  McCain couldn’t even make eye contact in the initial handshake, and that says volumes to the voters.  Palin said she watched Tina Fey impersonate her with the sound down; anyone who did that to this debate knows exactly who won, and why.

McCain’s campaign suspension: three thoughts

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

First of all, the “suspension” is nothing of the kind. McCain’s surrogates will continue to stump for him, the 527 ads like this one will continue, and so will the massive undercurrent of email invective insinuating that Obama’s a Muslim, that he hates Christianity, etc., etc. Sure, I know McCain can claim he’s not directly linked to any of this: but that’s the point.  You can’t just turn a presidential campaign OFF.  Except as an exercise in political theater.

Second, McCain’s move will take the oft-heard “Obama’s playing politics with the issues” argument to reductio ad absurdum levels, since it literally will no longer be possible for Obama to discuss the issues (ANY issues) without getting accused by the GOP of playing politics.  Meanwhile McCain can grandstand all he wants.

Third, while the suspension is an act of total cynicism, it may actually work.  But don’t look to today’s polls/tea-leaves to see whether it is.  We’re entering uncharted waters now, and God only knows how all the intrigue on Capitol Hill across the next few days is going to look to confused centrist voters.  They may yet hail McCain as a statesman.

Deleting your vote

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

As the candidates enter the final stretch, the big elephant on the table (no pun intended) continues to be vote fraud. In many ways, 2004 was just as problematic an election as 2000: in particular, there’s ample evidence that Ohio was stolen, and that if this hadn’t happened, Kerry would be in the White House (Remember all those exit polls that showed Kerry winning?  Well, they may have been quite accurate.)

The public’s denial on this issue runs deep indeed: who wants to admit that democracy isn’t just in crisis, but that it’s already failing? Scientists at UC released the results of a study last week showing how easy it is to hack voting machines; in fact, Diebold (the most notorious of the manufacturers of those wonderful gizmos) admitted earlier this year that its machines do in fact contain a glitch . . . but that safeguards will be in place to prevent it from impacting the 08 election.  (It’s tough to write that with a straight face.)

All of which is very worrying indeed, particularly given that the GOP has already started a massive effort to start fucking with the vote by disenfranchising as many people as possible.  Sure, it may be the Rovian tactics and the smears that get all the headlines, but let’s face it:  there’s no better way to win elections than to rig them.  Keep it up for a few more elections, and there won’t BE any more elections.  And I’m starting to think that’s exactly the way a lot of people want it.

Lehman, Merrill, and a little monkey business

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Lehman’s roadkill. Merrill Lynch has run for cover. And it looks like Washington Mutual is probably next, along with God knows who else. The best analogy I can think of to describe what’s happening involves a really big set of cookie jars, hundreds of hungry monkeys, and a complicated light system that only incrementally reveals who has their hand in which jar, and just how many cookies they’ve already consumed. The point being that we still don’t know how deep this goes, and if that isn’t an argument for a total reform of the entire joke that our financial system has become, I have no idea what is.

It will also be interesting to see if the disaster that the economy is becoming finally makes its way into the presidential campaign.  Both candidates have talked a lot about the economy, sure, but neither has even begun to level with the American people about just how bad this is getting.  The New Model McCain is unlikely to venture anywhere near THAT discussion, of course, but Obama is going to have to.  Explaining in precise terms how this is all part of the mess the GOP has created while avoiding pointing out to the average citizen how his/her own spendthrift habits is also part of the problem . . . that’s the fine line that Obama is going to have to walk.  As for McCain, he can only hope the attacks on Palin intensify while everybody forgets about all those pesky issues that actually matter.

Obama veers into Carterland

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

So Obama clearly had his work cut out for him appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show. But O’Reilly couldn’t be happier with this first part of the interview. What a #$# disaster for Obama. The clip’s at the end of this (and at this link): but on question after question Obama comes off as a waffler. If he goes into the debates like this, he’s going to get taken apart. Play by play:

First, at the beginning; Obama suddenly smiles, and it looks fake as hell. This is undoubtedly Fox News’ little touch (it’s a travesty they call themselves unbiased and fair); he didn’t know when the camera started running, but it’s not a great start.

Second, he’s asked if he thinks Iran is a threat, and he launches into a discussion of Sunni vs. Shiite. Does he think Middle America cares? He should have just said, absolutely, it’s a threat and left it at that.

Third, when he’s asked if he would use military force against Iran if necessary, he says he wouldn’t take the option off the table. A yes answer would have been a little more impressive.

Fourth, when he’s asked would he even PREPARE for the military force option against Iran he starts waffling about all those other great options:  embargos, sanctions, etc., etc., while O’Reilly jumps all over him.  Aargh.

Fifth:  the surge.  This is giving Obama all sorts of trouble, especially because he’s already said the surge has worked “beyond our wildest dreams.”  So naturally when O’Reilly says, “c’mon, admit it, you were right on the decision to go to war, and wrong on the surge, c’mon, just say it,” Obama comes off as stubborn.  There’s a far easier way out of this:  look, Bill, the surge may be working so far, but it hasn’t worked yet….and unless we follow it up with rebuilding and aid to Iraq it’s not going to work….and if we do all that, I’ll be happy to come on your show and say it works but until then how about you shut the fuck up with all your posturing, huh, Bill?

Sixth:  when they get to Pakistan, O’Reilly taunts him with “well, you wouldn’t send in the ground troops”, and Obama doesn’t disagree.  We’ve already HAD ground troops (well, special forces) in Pakistan; why assume anything at this point?

Anyway.  Point being we’ve seen all this before:  Democratic candidates/presidents coming off as being way too reluctant to use military force.  It spells electoral disaster.  And it also makes for weak presidents.

The experience question, and the Palin trade-off

Friday, September 5th, 2008 has a great article on how overblown the whole experience issue is. Put bluntly, there’s no evidence to suggest that less experienced presidents underperform more experienced presidents. This is in large part due to the nature of the Oval Office: by definition, everyone who ends up there has no idea what it’s really like, and they’re going to be playing catch-up as best they can.

Which may still leave open the question as to whether there’s an “experience threshold”: i.e., a desirable minimum of exposure to the pitfalls of high office prior to taking over the highest office of them all. While the Dems hasten to defend the magic power that serving only a few years in the Senate can apparently have (at least on Democratic candidates), I think the most telling argument in favor of Obama is the campaign he’s run:  a highly successful undertaking that beat the favored incumbent and may yet win the presidency.  While the nature of modern campaigning gets (and deserves) a lot of flack, the sheer volatility/complexity of running a national campaign has the benefit of signaling when someone’s totally unqualified, as a candidate who loses control of his campaign isn’t likely to make a good president.  (Which is one reason I think Kerry would have been a disappointment had he won in 04.)  This of course doesn’t prove that Obama would make a great president, but it does at least indicate he has the potential.

Palin is more of an enigma.  Whereas with Obama we have at least have some clue as to how he might cope with a blizzard of domestic and foreign issues/crises, with her we have none (beyond, of course, her socially conservative views).  This doesn’t mean she would make a terrible president.  Were she to shadow a President McCain for several months/years, she may yet cut a formidable figure on the world stage.  Great leaders often come from humble origins and backgrounds; there’s nothing in Palin’s biography to suggest she won’t learn if given time.

But that’s the problem:  time.  McCain is betting that he’ll have it, and he may, if all goes according to plan.  The press is agog with the notion that the Palin pick is a terrible risk to his campaign.  I don’t think it is:  she will fire up the GOP base like no one has done since Ronald Reagan, and her very lack of experience will prove to be a boon with an electorate desperate for something new.  The real risk here is that Palin may succeed quickly to the presidency, and I can’t see anyone arguing with a straight face that putting someone into that office after (let’s say) three months in the national spotlight isn’t a colossal gamble.  It’s hard to escape the notion that in picking Palin, McCain has optimized his campaign at the expense of his legacy, and the repercussions could be with us for a long time to come.